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<  MUD and Game Theory  ~  Player Types - a "Bartle" Inspired Thread

Posted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:16 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
A number of clear player types is evident in any MMORPG

i) Achievers regard points-gathering and rising in levels as their main goal, and all is ultimately subserviant to this. Exploration is necessary only to find new sources of treasure, or improved ways of wringing points from it. Socialising is a relaxing method of discovering what other players know about the business of accumulating points, that their knowledge can be applied to the task of gaining riches. Killing is only necessary to eliminate rivals or people who get in the way, or to gain vast amounts of points (if points are awarded for killing other players).

Achievers say things like:
"I'm busy."
"Sure, I'll help you. What do I get?"
"So how do YOU kill the dragon, then?"
"Only 4211 points to go!"

ii) Explorers delight in having the game expose its internal machinations to them. They try progressively esoteric actions in wild, out-of-the-way places, looking for interesting features (ie. bugs) and figuring out how things work. Scoring points may be necessary to enter some next phase of exploration, but it's tedious, and anyone with half a brain can do it. Killing is quicker, and might be a constructive exercise in its own right, but it causes too much hassle in the long run if the deceased return to seek retribution. Socialising can be informative as a source of new ideas to try out, but most of what people say is irrelevant or old hat. The real fun comes only from discovery, and making the most complete set of maps in existence.

Explorers say things like:
"You mean you *don't know* the shortest route from <obscure
room 1> to <obscure room 2>?"
"I haven't tried that one, what's it do?"
"Why is it that if you carry the uranium you get radiation sickness, and if you put it in a bag you still get it, but if you put it in a bag and drop it then wait 20 seconds and pick it up again, you don't?"

iii) Socialisers are interested in people, and what they have to say. The game is merely a backdrop, a common ground where things happen to players. Inter-player relationships are important: empathising with people, sympathising, joking, entertaining, listening; even merely observing people play can be rewarding - seeing them grow as individuals, maturing over time. Some exploration may be necessary so as to understand what everyone else is talking about, and points-scoring could be required to gain access to neat communicative spells available only to higher levels (as well as to obtain a certain status in the community). Killing, however, is something only ever to be excused if it's a futile, impulsive act of revenge, perpetrated upon someone who has caused intolerable pain to a dear friend. The only ultimately fulfilling thing is not how to rise levels or kill hapless drips; it's getting to *know* people, to undertand them, and to form beautiful, lasting relationships.

Socialisers say things like:
"Yeah, well, I'm having trouble with my boyfriend."
"What happened? I missed it, I was talking."
"Really? Oh no! Gee, that's terrible! Are you sure? Awful, just awful!"

iv) Killers get their kicks from imposing themselves on others. This may be "nice", ie. busybody do-gooding, but few people practice such an approach because the rewards (a warm, cosy inner glow, apparently) aren't very substantial. Much more commonly, people attack other players with a view to killing off their personae (hence the name for this style of play). The more massive the distress caused, the greater the killer's joy at having caused it. Normal points-scoring is usually required so as to become powerful enough to begin causing havoc in earnest, and exploration of a kind is necessary to discover new and ingenious ways to kill people. Even socialising is sometimes worthwhile beyond taunting a recent victim, for example in finding out someone's playing habits, or discussing tactics with fellow killers. They're all just means to an end, though; only in the knowledge that a real person, somewhere, is very upset by what you've just done, yet can themselves do nothing about it, is there any true adrenalin-shooting, juicy fun.

Killers says things like:
"Die! Die! Die!"

(Killers are people of few words).

So What?

A "normal" player probably has aspects of themselves that fit each of the above categories - what sort of a player are you (or does that vary depending on the CHARACTER you are playing at the time)?

Last edited by wonko on Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:47 am; edited 1 time in total

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Posted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:30 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
Where do your interests lie?

i) Achievers are interested in doing things to the game, ie. in ACTING on the WORLD. It's the fact that the game environment is a fully-fledged world in which they can immerse themselves that they find compelling; its being shared with other people merely adds a little authenticity, and perhaps a competitive element. The point of playing is to master the game, and make it do what you want it to do; there's nothing intrinsically worthwhile in rooting out irrelevant details that will never be of use, or in idling away your life with gossip.

Achievers are proud of their formal status in the game's built-in level hierarchy, and of how short a time they took to reach it.

ii) Explorers are interested in having the game surprise them, ie. in INTERACTING with the WORLD. It's the sense of wonder which the virtual world imbues that they crave for; other players add depth to the game, but they aren't essential components of it, except perhaps as sources of new areas to visit. Scoring points all the time is a worthless occupation, because it defies the very open-endedness that makes a world live and breathe. Most accomplished explorers could easily rack up sufficient points to reach the top, but such one-dimensional behaviour is the sign of a limited intellect.

Explorers are proud of their knowledge of the game's finer points, especially if new players treat them as founts of all knowledge.

iii) Socialisers are interested in INTERACTING with other PLAYERS. This usually means talking, but it can extend to more exotic behaviour. Finding out about people and getting to know them is far more worthy than treating them as fodder to be bossed around. The game world is just a setting; it's the characters that make it so compelling.

Socialisers are proud of their friendships, their contacts and their influence.

iv) Killers are interested in doing things to people, ie. in ACTING on other PLAYERS. Normally, this is not with the consent of these "other players" (even if, objectively, the interference in their play might appear "helpful"), but killers don't care; they wish only to demonstrate their superiority over fellow humans, preferably in a world which serves to legitimise actions that could mean imprisonment in real life. Accumulated knowledge is useless unless it can be applied; even when it is applied, there's no fun unless it can affect a real person instead of an emotionless, computerised entity.

Killers are proud of their reputation and of their oft-practiced fighting skills.

The "interest graph" is a representational structure which can chart what players find of interest in a MUD. The axes can be assigned a relative scale reflecting the ratio of an individual's interest between the two extremes that it admits. Thus, for example, someone who thinks that the people who are in the world are maybe twice as important as the the world itself would lie on a vertical line intersecting the x-axis at a point 1/6 of the distance from the origin to the left edge; if they had little interest in bending the game to their will, preferring their actions to have some give and take, then they would also lie on a horizontal line at the bottom of the y-axis. The interesection of the two lines would put them in the socialiser quadrant, with leanings to explorer.

Last edited by wonko on Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:44 am; edited 1 time in total

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Posted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:39 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
A Delicate Balance is sought in TMUX to provide many things to many player types. Engineering the balance involves consideration of many things:
Ways to emphasise PLAYERS over WORLD:
  • add more communication facilities
  • add more player-on-player commands (eg. transitive ones like TICKLE or CONGRATULATE, or commands to form and maintain closed groups of personae)
  • make communication facilities easy and intuitive
  • decrease the size of the world
  • increase the connectivity between rooms
  • maximise the number of simultaneous players
  • restrict building privileges to a select few
  • cut down on the number of mobiles
Ways to emphasise WORLD over PLAYERS:
  • have only basic communication facilities
  • have few ways that players can do things to other players
  • make building facilities easy and intuitive
  • maximise the size of the world (ie. add *breadth*)
  • use only "rational" room connections in most cases
  • grant building privileges to many
  • have lots of mobiles
Ways to emphasise INTERACTING over ACTING:
  • make help facilities produce vague information
  • produce cryptic hints when players appear stuck
  • maximise the effects of commands (ie. add *depth*)
  • lower the rewards for achievement
  • have only a shallow level/class system
  • produce amusing responses for amusing commands
  • edit all room descriptions for consistent atmosphere
  • limit the number of commands available in any one area
  • have lots of small puzzles that can be solved easily
  • allow builders to add completely new commands
Ways to emphasise ACTING over INTERACTING:
  • provide a game manual
  • include auto-map facilities
  • include auto-log facilities
  • raise the rewards for achievement
  • have an extensive level/class system
  • make commands be applicable wherever they might reasonably have meaning
  • have large puzzles, that take over an hour to complete
  • have many commands relating to fights
  • only allow building by top-quality builders

Hopefully TMUX is on the right track...

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Posted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:47 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
Player Type Interactions are interesting.

Achievers regard other achievers as competition to be beaten (although this is typically friendly in nature, rather than cut-throat). Respect is given to those other achievers who obviously are extraordinarily good, but typically achievers will cite bad luck or lack of time as reasons for not being as far advanced in the game as their contemporaries.

That said, achievers do often co-operate with one another, usually to perform some difficult collective goal, and from these shared experiences can grow deep, enduring friendships which may surpass in intensity those commonly found among individuals other groups. This is perhaps analagous to the difference between the bond that soldiers under fire share and the bond that friends in a bar share.

Achievers do not need the presence of any other type of player in order to be encouraged to join a MUD: they would be quite happy if the game were empty but for them, assuming it remained a challenge (although some do feel a need to describe their exploits to anyone who will listen). Because of this, a MUD can't have too many achievers, physical limitations excepted.

Achievers tend to regard explorers as losers: people who have had to resort to tinkering with the game mechanics because they can't cut it as a player. Exceptionally good explorers may be elevated to the level of eccentric, in much the same way that certain individuals come to be regarded as gurus by users of large computer installations: what they do is pointless, but they're useful to have around when you need to know something obscure, fast. They can be irritating, and they rarely tell the whole truth (perhaps because they don't know it?), but they do have a place in the world.

The overall number of explorers has only a marginal effect on the population of achievers. In essence, more explorers will mean that fewer of the really powerful objects will be around around for the achievers to use, the explorers having used their arcane skills to obtain them first so as to use them in their diabolical experiments... This can cause achievers to become frustrated, and leave. More importantly, perhaps, the number of explorers affects the *rate of advancement* of achievers, because it determines whether or not they have to work out all those tiresome puzzles themselves. Thus, more explorers will lead to a quicker rise through the ranks for achievers, which will tend to encourage them (if not overdone).

Achievers merely tolerate socialisers. Although they are good sources of general hearsay on the comings and goings of competitors, they're nevertheless pretty much a waste of space as far as achievers are concerned. Typically, achievers will regard socialisers with a mixture of contempt, disdain, irritation and pity, and will speak to them in either a sharp or patronising manner. Occasionally, flame wars between different cliques of socialisers and achievers may break out, and these can be among the worst to stop: the achievers don't want to lose the argument, and the socialisers don't want to stop talking!

Changing the number of socialisers in a MUD has no effect on the number of achievers.

Achievers don't particularly like killers. They realise that killers as a concept are necessary in order to make achievement meaningful and worthwhile (there being no way to "lose" the game if any fool can "win" just by plodding slowly unchallenged), however they don't pesonally like being attacked unless it's obvious from the outset that they'll win. They also object to being interrupted in the middle of some grand scheme to accumulate points, and they don't like having to arm themselves against surprise attacks every time they start to play. Achievers will, occasionally, resort to killing tactics themselves, in order to cause trouble for a rival or to reap whatever rewards the game itself offers for success, however the risks are usually too high for them to pursue such options very often.

Increasing the number of killers will reduce the number of achievers; reducing the killer population will increase the achiever population. Note, however, that those general MUDs which nevertheless allow player-killing tend to do so in the belief that in small measure it is good for the game: it promotes cameraderie, excitement and intensity of experience (and it's the only method that players will accept to ensure that complete idiots don't plod inexorably through the ranks to acquire a degree of power which they aren't really qualified to wield). As a consequence, reducing the number of killers *too* much will be perceived as cheapening the game, making high achievement commonplace, and it will put off those achievers who are alarmed at the way any fool can "do well" just by playing poorly for long enough.

Explorers look on achievers as nascent explorers, who haven't yet figured out that there's more to life than pursuing meaningless goals. They are therefore willing to furnish them with information, although, like all experts, they will rarely tell the full story when they can legitimately give cryptic clues instead. Apart from the fact that they sometimes get in the way, and won't usually hand over objects that are needed for experiments, achievers can live alongside explorers without much friction.

Explorers' numbers aren't affected by the presence of achievers.

Explorers hold good explorers in great respect, but are merciless to bad ones. One of the worst things a fellow explorer can do is to give out incorrect information, believing it to be true. Other than that, explorers thrive on telling one another their latest discoveries, and generally get along very well. Outwardly, they will usually claim to have the skill necessary to follow the achievement path to glory, but have other reasons for not doing so (eg. time, tedium, or having proven themselves already with a different persona). There are often suspicions, though, that explorers are too theoretical in most cases, and wouldn't be able to put their ideas into practice on a day-to-day basis if they were to recast themselves in the achiever or killer mould.

Explorers enjoy the company of other explorers, and they will play more often if they have people around them to whom they can relate. Unfortunately, not many people have the type of personality which finds single-minded exploring a riveting subject, so numbers are notoriously difficult to increase. If you have explorers in a game, hold on to them!

Explorers consider socialisers to be people whom they can impress, but who are otherwise pretty well unimportant. Unless they can appreciate the explorer's talents, they're not really worth spending time with. There *are* some explorers who treat conversation as their specialist explorer subject, but these are very rare indeed; most will be polite and attentive, but they'll find some diversion if the conversation isn't MUD-related or if their fellow interlocutor is clearly way below them in the game-understanding stakes.

The explorer population is not directly affected by the size of the socialiser population.

Explorers often have a grudging respect for killers, but they do find their behaviour wearisome. It's just *so* annoying to be close to finishing setting up something when a killer comes along and attacks you. On the other hand, many killers do know their trade well, and are quite prepared to discuss the finer details of it with explorers. Sometimes, an explorer may try attacking other players as an exercise, and they can be extremely effective at it. Explorers who are particularly riled by a killer may even decide to "do something about it" themselves. If they make such a decision, then it can be seriously bad news for the killer concerned: being jumped and trashed by a low-level (in terms of game rank) explorer can have a devastating effect on a killer's reputation, and turn them into a laughing stock overnight. Explorers do not, however, tend to have the venom or malice that true killers possess, nor will they continue the practice to the extent that they acquire a reputation of their own for killing.

The affect of killers on the explorer population is fairly muted, because most explorers don't particularly care if they get killed (or at least they profess not not). However, if it happens too often then they will become disgruntled, and play less frequently.

Socialisers like achievers, because they provide the running soap opera about which the socialisers can converse. Without such a framework, there is no uniting cause to bring socialisers together (at least not initially). Note that socialisers don't particularly enjoy talking *to* achievers (not unless they can get them to open up, which is very difficult); they do, however, enjoy talking *about* them. A cynic might suggest that the relationship between socialisers and achievers is similar to that between women and men...

Increasing the achiever/socialiser ratio has only a subtle effect: socialisers may come to feel that the MUD is "all about" scoring points and killing mobiles, and some of them may therefore leave before matters "get worse". Decreasing it has little effect unless the number of active achievers drops to near zero, in which case new socialisers might find it difficult to break into established conversational groups, and thus decide to take their play elsewhere.

Socialisers generally consider explorers to be sad characters who are desperately in need of a life. Both groups like to talk, but rarely about the same things, and if they do get together it's usually because the explorer wants to sound erudite and the socialiser has nothing better to do at the time.

The number of explorers in a MUD has no effect on the number of socialisers.

A case of positive feedback: socialisers can talk to one another on any subject for hours on end, and come back later for more. The key factor is whether there is an open topic of conversation: in a game-like environment, the MUD itself provides the context for discussion, whether it be the goings-on of other players or the feeble attempts of a socialiser to try playing it; in a non-game environment, some other subject is usually required to structure conversations, either within the software of the MUD itself (eg. building) or without it (eg. "This is a support MUD for the victims of cancer"). Note that this kind of subject-setting is only required as a form of ice-breaker: once socialisers have acquired friends, they'll invariably find other things that they can talk about.

The more socialisers there are in a game, the more new ones will be attracted to it.

This is perhaps the most fractious relationship between player group types. The hatred that some socialisers bear for killers admits no bounds. Partly, this is the killers' own fault: they go out of their way to rid MUDs of namby-pamby socialisers who wouldn't know a weapon if one came up and hit them (an activity that killers are only too happy to demonstrate), and they will generally hassle socialisers at every opportunity simply because it's so easy to get them annoyed. However, the main reason that socialisers tend to despise killers is that they have completely antisocial motives, whereas socialisers have (or like to think they have) a much more friendly and helpful attitude to life. The fact that many socialisers take attacks on their personae personally only compounds their distaste for killers.

It could be argued that killers do have a positive role to play from the point of view of socialisers. There are generally two defences made for their existence: 1) without killers, socialisers would have little to talk about; 2) without evil as a contrast, there is no good. The former is patently untrue, as socialisers will happily talk about anything and everything; it may be that it helps provide a catalyst for long conversations, but only if it isn't an everyday occurrence. The second argument is more difficult to defend against (being roughly equivalent to the reason why God allows the devil to exist), however it presupposes that those who attack other players are the only example of nasty people in a MUD. In fact, there is plenty of opportunity for players of all persuasions to behave obnoxiously to one another; killers merely do it more openly, and (if allowed) in the context of the game world.

Increasing the number of killers will decrease the number of socialisers by a much greater degree. Decreasing the number of killers will likewise greatly encourage (or, rather, fail to discourage) socialisers to play the MUD.

Killers regard achievers as their natural prey. Achievers are good fighters (because they've learned the necessary skills against mobiles), but they're not quite as good as killers, who are more specialised. This gives the "thrill of the chase" which many killers enjoy - an achiever may actually be able to escape, but will usually succumb at some stage, assuming they don't see sense and quit first. Achievers also dislike being attacked, which makes the experience of attacking them all the more fun; furthermore, it is unlikely that they will stop playing after being set back by a killer, and thus they can be "fed upon" again, later. The main disadvantage of pursuing achievers, however, is that an achiever can get so incensed at being attacked that they decide to take revenge. A killer may thus innocently enter a game only to find a heavily-armed achiever lying in wait, which rather puts the boot on the other foot...

Note that there is a certain sub-class of killers, generally run by wiz-level players, who have a more ethical point to their actions. In particular, their aim is to "test" players for their "suitability" to advance to the higher levels themselves. In general, such personae should not be regarded as falling into the killer category, although in some instances the ethical aspect is merely an excuse to indulge in killing sprees without fear of sanction. Rather, these killers tend to be run by people in either the achievement category (protecting their own investment) or the explorer category (trying to teach their victims how to defend themselves against *real* killers).

Increasing the number of achievers will, over time, increase the number of killers in a typically Malthusian fashion.

Killers tend to leave explorers alone. Not only can explorers be formidable fighters (with many obscure, unexpected tactics at their disposal), but they often don't fret about being attacked - a fact which is very frustrating for killers. Sometimes, particularly annoying explorers will simply ignore a killer's attack, and make no attempt whatsoever to defend against it; this is the ultimate in cruelty to killers. For more long-term effects, though, a killer's being beaten by an explorer has more impact on the game: the killer will feel shame, their reputation will suffer, and the explorer will pass on survival tactics to everyone else. In general, then, killers will steer well clear of even half-decent explorers, except when they have emptied a game of everyone else and are so desperate for a fix that even an explorer looks tempting...

Increasing the number of explorers will slightly decrease the number of killers.

Killers regard socialisers with undisguised glee. It's not that socialisers are in any way a challenge, as usually they will be pushovers in combat; rather, socialisers feel a dreadful hurt when attacked (especially if it results in the loss of their persona), and it is this which killers enjoy about it. Besides, killers tend to like to have a bad reputation, and if there's one way to get people to talk about you, it's to attack a prominent socialiser...

Increasing the number of socialisers will increase the number of killers, although of course the number of socialisers wouldn't remain increased for very long if that happened.

Killers try not to cross the paths of other killers, except in pre-organised challenge matches. Part of the psychology of killers seems to be that they wish to be viewed as somehow superior to other players; being killed by a killer in open play would undermine their reputation, and therefore they avoid risking it (compare Killers v Explorers). This means that nascent or wannabe killers are often put off their chosen particular career path because they themselves are attacked by more experienced killers and soundly thrashed. For this reason, it can take a very long time to increase the killer population in a MUD, even if all the conditions are right for them to thrive; killer numbers rise grindingly slowly, unless competent killers are imported from another MUD to swell the numbers artificially.

Killers will occasionally work in teams, but only as a short-term exercise; they will usually revert to stalking their victims solo in the next session they play.

There are two cases where killers might be attacked by players who, superficially, look like other killers. One of these is the "killer killer", usually run by wiz-level players, which has been discussed earlier. The other is in the true hack-and-slash type of MUD, where the whole aim of the game is to kill other personae, and no-one particularly minds being killed because they weren't expecting to last very long anyway. This type of play does not appeal to "real" killers, because it doesn't cause people emotional distress when their personae are deleted (indeed, socialisers prefer it more than killers do). However, it's better than nothing.

The only effect that killers have on other killers is in reducing the number of potential victims available. This, in theory, should keep the number of killers down, however in practice killers will simply attack less attractive victims instead. It takes a very drastic reduction in the number of players before established killers will decide to stop playing a MUD and move elsewhere, by which time it is usually too late to save the MUD concerned.

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